The Newsletter Approach: How Publishers Are Getting and Retaining Subscribers

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The media business has seen a lot of changes since the advent of the internet. With the increase in available content and shorter attention span, publishers find new ways to reach consumers. While several methods have been deployed, the email newsletter is one approach that seems to have stuck.

Many publishers have seen that newsletters are the most effective ways to get access to readers. With it, media companies minimize their dependence on their ads and social media algorithms to put themselves directly in front of the readers.

With newsletters, publishers can curate content that fits into their readers’ preferences. It gives readers a view of what is available on the publisher’s website. Most media companies such as New York Times, Medium, etc., use this form of newsletters to give an overview of what they have available. Such newsletters usually contain headlines and excerpts with links that give users the opportunity to read the articles.

But newsletters are not just for curating content for readers. It is also a way to lure in new subscribers for most publishers. Free newsletters usually require readers to click on links that lead them to a paywall, requiring them to subscribe to access the information.

Apart from these free newsletters, many media outlets now have newsletters that are exclusive to subscribers. Several publishers, including New York Magazine, Quartz, and The Los Angeles Times, have adopted newsletters. Recently, the New York Times launched 18 newsletters exclusively for subscribers. According to the media outlet, about 15 million people read at least one of its 50  newsletters weekly.

Other publishers are also expanding their newsletters or starting new ones. For example, after its survey showed that 75% of its subscribers access most content through their email, Quartz announced it is basing its subscription program on its newsletters. The New York Magazine also launched five newsletters in 2020, and The Information launched its free newsletter in March.

Beyond the marketing and direct financial benefits newsletters to publishers, it’s also a way for readers to maintain an emotional connection with the brand. The simple act of opening an email newsletter every day makes the reader more intimate with the publisher’s brand. So, in a way, it helps reduce churn and is, therefore, a retention strategy for most media outlets.

Publishers now analyze data related to newsletters to determine the engagement of their readers. With platforms like Substack poaching writers from media companies, newsletters give publishers the opportunity to even the playing field. In an age where mobile devices and reading emails have become a part of our daily routines, it looks like newsletters are here to stay.

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